Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 4.

John Wick: Chapter 4 is that rarest of sequels: It’s a masterpiece, even as the fourth film in the franchise. It even makes all of the chapters that came before it better. It’s the best film of a fantastic four.

John Wick is a career-defining role that plays to all of Keanu Reeves’ great movie-star qualities and allows him to show off dramatically and physically. He delivers his best work in the best film of his career. Yes, this film is better than The Matrix.

As for director Chad Stahelski, whose directing resume consists of just the four Wick movies, he has given us a film that is anything but one note. The action takes place in so many glorious ways that it’s hard to keep track. Nightclubs, on horseback, staircases, Greek-like cathedrals and city streets are just some of the backdrops for some of the greatest action/fight scenes ever captured for a movie. This film is nearly three hours long, and every one of its seconds is wisely and entertainingly used.

To say this is something you need to see on a big screen would be a bit of an understatement. Find the movie on the biggest, best-est screen in your neighborhood. Order five fucking buckets of popcorn to munch on for two hours and 49 minutes (and maybe take it easy on liquid consumption for obvious reasons), and just have at it. The is the sort of spectacle that makes you remember why you drag your lazy asses out of the house rather than watch NetMax Plussing in your living room all of the time.

Early in the film, Wick is seen dispatching bad guys while riding horseback through a desert landscape. It’s definitely a new look for him, and it’s beautifully shot. This sets the stage for an anything-goes vibe that, amazingly, has every scene feeling like something brand new.

At the end of Chapter 3, Ian McShane’s Winston, runner of the assassin hotel The Continental, shot an “excommunicado” Wick. The action picks up after Wick has been hiding with Morpheus, excuse me, the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) for months. When it is learned that Wick is back in business, the usual contracts go out, and the mayhem kicks into high gear.

A gunfight shot from above, showing the participants going from room to room, is a total trip. A sequence near film’s end, with a staircase seemingly out of The Exorcist, is an absolute showstopper. And a long scene in which it feels like the entire city of Paris is trying to kill Wick in the streets is insane perfection. It’s all paced and flows in a way that is simply thrilling.

As for villains, this has a reliably great one in Bill Skarsgard as Marquis, a family head who, of course, wants John Wick dead, and can’t seem to get the job done, no matter what he throws at him. Skarsgard is putting together a nice portfolio of characters outside of the Pennywise makeup. Donnie Yen is a total blast as a blind super-fighter commissioned to take out Wick; it’s a tough gig for him, since he loves the guy. Don’t we all?

As I left the theater, I felt like I’d just watched one of the greatest genre/blockbuster achievements in cinematic history. If this is the last chapter, it’s very well played. If there are more, I will certainly line up for what transpires.

This year has its first great film. Let’s hope it’s the first of many for 2023.

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